An Advent Companion for Youth
Monday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Mt 21, 23-27
After Jesus had entered the temple precincts and while he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him and said: "On what authority are you doing these things? Who has given you this power?" Jesus answered: "I too will ask a question. If you answer it for me, then I will tell you on what authority I do the things I do. What was the origin of John's baptism? Was it divine or merely human?" They thought to themselves, "If we say 'divine,' he will ask us, 'Then why did you not put faith in it?'; while if we say, 'merely human,' we shall have reason to fear the people, who all regard John as a prophet." So their answer to Jesus was, "We do not know." He said in turn, "Then neither will I tell you on what authority I do the things I do."
REFLECTION: Perhaps you've been put in a situation online where someone has told you to "prove" God's existence or "justify" the Church's past sins. If you have, consider yourself blessed: now you catch a glimpse of how Jesus was attacked in the same way. Long before the crown of thorns was fashioned, or the spikes nailed through our Lord's flesh, Jesus was being assaulted verbally and philosophically by the "intellectuals" of His time. They claimed to be seeking truth.., unaware that it was Truth incarnate (with a beard, even) smiling back at them.
Possibly most fascinating is their repeated use of the word "authority" in this passage. The word "authority" literally means "author's right: And since God - and God alone - is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15), it stands to reason that God (and God alone) is the sole source
of cosmic authority. As the one with authority, God has the right to bestow that authority on whomever He chooses.
Where we get ourselves into trouble as sinners and a culture, however, is when the characters start trying to tell the author what to write or how to write or, worse yet, acting as though the author doesn't have any rights. Hamlet cannot tell Shakespeare what to write. Katniss Everdeen cannot tell Suzanne Collins what to write. Likewise, you and I, as characters in God's story, cannot (and should not try to) tell God what to write. He is the master. He is the author. God has full and final authority.
As God's son or daughter, you have a share in that authority. While not the pope or a bishop, all of the baptized (that's you) have the "right" and the call to share truth knowing that Truth is a person not an idea. So, share Christ!
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Today, pick a specific topic to continue to learn. Inform your mind with the Church's truth (check out that Catechism) and then refuse to keep that truth to yourself. Share truth with charity and patience and mercy. In doing so, you will not only help save high-minded souls and hardened hearts, but you will offer light into the darkness just as practically as that Advent wreath we've been lighting each week.
Tuesday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Mt 21, 28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What do you think of this case? There was a man who had two sons. He approached the elder and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' The son replied, 'I am on my way, sir'; but he never went. Then the man came to his second son and said the same thing. This son said in reply, 'No, I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. Which of the two did what the father wanted?" They said, "The second." Jesus said to them, "Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came preaching a way of holiness, you put no faith in him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did believe in him. Yet even when you saw that, you did not repent and believe in him."
REFLECTION: What is your opinion: Is the right answer right or the wrong answer right? You might be thinking, is this a real question? Do you even need an opinion for this? Obviously, the right answer is right.
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells a story of two Sons asked to work in the vineyard. The first son tells the father he will not go, but does the father's will after all; and the second son is eager to tell the father yes, but does not go.
At the end of the day, both sons disappoint the father, but the son who repented did the father's will, and the one who answered to please his father, did not actually do his father's will.
Through this parable, Jesus explains how good intentions are not good enough. We must ask ourselves this question honestly: Do I want to enter the kingdom of God? Jesus challenges us, even the gravest of sinners may enter before us if we do not repent and follow the Lord.
We have all disappointed the Lord in some way before, but God still calls us every day in both big and small ways. Maybe He is asking you to smile at the next person that walks by, or is calling you to consider a vocation to religious life today. Are you going to admit where you were wrong, and follow the Lord's will like the first son? Or are you going to respond how you want to, but not act, like the second? The choice is yours.
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Ask the Lord right now how He is calling you to work in His vineyard today and pray, "Lord, give me the strength to do your will"
Wednesday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Lk 7, 18-23
Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to ask the Lord, "Are you 'He who is to comé or are we to expect someone else?" When the men came to him they said, "John the Baptizer sends us to you with this question: 'Are you "He who is to come" or do we look for someone else?'" (At that time he was curing many of their diseases, afflictions, and evil spirits; he also restored sight to many who were blind.) Jesus gave this response: "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them. Blest is that man who finds no stumbling-block in me."
REFLECTION: Have you ever had to meet someone that you hadn't actually met before and hadn't seen a picture of?
Maybe you've even had a blind date and can relate to the awkwardness of walking up to ask, "Are you so and so?" John the Baptist and his disciples had heard rumors and stories about Jesus performing miracles, and John sent them to ask if He is the person they were searching for.
Jesus pointed them to His actions - the blind regained their sight and the deaf regained their hearing. Through these works, it was evident that Jesus was the person that John's disciples were seeking.
Is Christ the one you're searching for? Your actions will be the answer. If you run to money or friends who might veer you wrong, or for validation in accomplishments, then Christ isn't the thing you're currently searching for, but He is the one you need.
The first commandment reminds us that God needs to be primary in our lives, and that He is the one we need to count on no matter the situation. While pointing to the fruit of His work, Jesus is asking John's disciples, "Who is your God? If you are searching for the Truth, then I am the one who is to come”.
Jesus says the same thing to you and to me. We are searching for the truth in our hearts and in our lives. He is the answer to that.
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Focus on keeping Christ at the center of your day today. Before you begin anything, say a quick prayer turning it over to God, and then remember to thank God afterwards. Some examples of timing are from the start and end of class, practice, dinner family, etc. This doesn't have to be a visual or audible gesture of prayer, but rather an interior dialogue with God.
Thursday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Mt 1:1-17
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.
David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.
After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.
REFLECTION: Many people complain that they just don't get the passage we call, "The Genealogy of Jesus;" it sure is tempting to skip over while reading the Bible. It seems like just a list of unimportant names, most of which are hard to pronounce. But, we're told that all of Scripture has a purpose, so just how can this passage help us to pray or live out our faith in a new way?
It teaches us of all the great (but sometimes crazy) people that came before Jesus His ancestors. And, boy does this list have so many different people in it: Jacob, who schemed to steal his twin brother's birthright. David, a king, who committed adultery. Rahab, a prostitute. There are honorable people mentioned, like Boaz and Joseph, who lived extraordinary lives but were still human, nonetheless, and committed sin. And then there are a bunch of people we know nothing about - ordinary people who didn't do anything extraordinary in the world's eyes.
Just like Jesus, we all have a dysfunctional family in some way shape or form, full of people who curse, drink too much, lie, and cheat. Yet, full of people who love us greatly and unconditionally. Despite the love they may give us, it is often hard to love them in return. It may be easy to judge and shun them from our lives. But Jesus came for all of these people. He loves them, and He can even use them to build up His Kingdom. And that is why His genealogy is so important: These were the people chosen to complete His work here on earth before His arrival, one starry night in Bethlehem.
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE:This Advent, reflect on how you can better love your family members, despite their flaws, and actually do something to show them that they are loved. And, consider looking up the people mentioned in the genealogy to learn more about all that's behind Jesus' family tree.
Friday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Mt 1, 18-24
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to him: "Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
"The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel," a name which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had directed him and received her into his home as his wife. He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son, whom he named Jesus.
REFLECTION: "Want to hear God laugh? Tell Him your plans!”
In reading today's Gospel, you can't help but think about all of the plans that Joseph had laid out with Mary prior to the Archangel Gabriel's curveball, settle down, live a quiet life as a carpenter.. right.
Many may be quickly critical of Joseph's initial decision to divorce Mary quietly, however, in Joseph's defense, he didn't have all the information. But, just in time, an angel of the Lord revealed this to be true to Joseph, assuaging his fears and giving him the courage to move forward.
Similarly, we too do not have all the information about ourselves or about our lives. We have our plans, like Joseph did, but God has His. Sometimes they line up, and sometimes God turns the tables and leaves us trying to navigate the unknown.
But this is good news! Because we don't have all the information, we have to remain open to the possibility that our vision really is never going to be as good as God's. Only God alone knows fully the purpose of why He loved each one of us into existence and gave us our place in this world. This gives us freedom to trust Him and to change our lives when He calls us to.
This is what the story of Joseph teaches us. He was detached enough from his own life and his own self-will that he was able to let go of his deepest fear and need to control his own life. This allowed God into his heart, and there he heard what God really and truly required of him. What a fantastic example of how to trust Him with our lives. We could all use that reminder today.
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Write down ten situations or challenges that you have or are currently experiencing in which you need to the reminder that "God is with you' When you are finished, place this list in your Bible as a bookmark to this Gospel passage.
Saturday of Third week of Advent
Gospel Lk 1, 5-25
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly class of Abijah; his wife was a descendant of Aaron named Elizabeth. Both were just in the eyes of God, blamelessly following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. They were childless, for Elizabeth was sterile; moreover, both were advanced in years.
Once, when it was the turn of Zechariah's class and he was fulfilling his functions as a priest before God, it fell to him by lot according to priestly usage to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. While the full assembly of people was praying outside at the incense hour, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was deeply disturbed upon seeing him, and overcome by fear.
The angel said to him: "Do not be frightened, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son whom you shall name John. Joy and gladness will be yours, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Many of the sons of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. God himself will go before him, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just, and to prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed."
Zechariah said to the angel: "How am I to know this? I am an old man; my wife too is advanced in age."
The angel replied: "I am Gabriel, who stand in attendance before God. I was sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. But now you will be mute -- unable to speak -- until the day when these things take place, because you have not trusted my words. They will all come true in due season." Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, wondering at his delay in the temple. When he finally came out he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision inside. He kept making signs to them, for he remained speechless.
Then, when his period of priestly service was over, he went home.
Afterward, his wife Elizabeth conceived. She went into seclusion for five months, saying, "In these days the Lord is acting on my behalf; he has seen fit to remove my reproach among men."
REFLECTION: Fear can literally paralyze us. From the time we are very young to the time we die, fear can play a major role in our lives. It is not age reliant. When we encounter situations in our life that create fear, we often hesitate or look the other way. Often times, fear can lead us away from God's plan in our life. This is how the evil one works by creating fear and doubt so we become neutralized and unable to do what the Lord is asking of us.
In today's Gospel, Zechariah is in disbelief and in fear of his encounter with the Archangel Gabriel. Zechariah can't believe that someone his age could have a child. In fact, he is so reluctant to believe that the Angel renders him speechless so he has to be obedient. Sometimes the most reluctant and fearful are exactly who the Lord is calling to be obedient and fulfill His plan.
What are the things in your life that you fear? What are you afraid that God will ask of you? Are you open TO God calling you to discern the priesthood or the religious life? Does fear of what other people think of you cause you to sit on the sidelines as far your faith is concerned? How concerned are you about being on God's plan rather than on your own plan?
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Right now, ask yourself what is the one thing you are most fearful the Lord could ask of you? Once you identify this area, take a moment to reflect on what is causing this fear. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen if, in fact, God asked this of you? Close your reflection time by praying a Hail Mary asking our Blessed Mother to intercede for you.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel Lk 1, 26-38
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. Upon arriving, the messenger said to her: "Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The messenger went on to say to her: "Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end."
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know man?" The angel answered her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God. Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God."
Mary said: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." With that the angel left her.
REFLECTION: Have you ever been so excited to go visit someone that it seemed like the days leading up to your departure slowly crept by? You start a countdown using one of those fancy apps that tell you exactly how many days are left, and a few countdown photos make it onto Instagram. When the day finally arrives, your Snapchat story is updated to let everyone know where you're headed. Then you set out with such urgency to get to your destination. Sound familiar?
In the Gospel today, that is exactly what Mary does. No, she didn't have social media to document each day, but she did set out in haste to visit Elizabeth. She had such wonderful news to share, and she couldn't wait a second longer to go see her cousin.
Upon arriving at Elizabeth's house, Mary greeted her, and the child in Elizabeth's womb leapt for joy. In that moment, she immediately knew Mary was pregnant with our Lord. "His greatness [that shall] reach to the ends of the earth" that Prophet Micah speaks of in the first reading was to be born soon. Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary and was honored to spend some time with her.
During this Advent season, what has given you a reason to rejoice? How can you share the joy of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth with your family and friends? We show others our lives in many ways through photos, snaps, and tweets on social media. Why not share the love of Christ there, too?
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: It's never too late to dive into the Season of Advent. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary today (one decade or the whole thing!), and allow our Blessed Mother to lead you closer to her Son as we prepare our hearts for His coming into our lives.